It’s not as if Austria, Europe… everywhere… didn’t have their peculiar parts of nature that sometimes, suddenly, end up spots to see.
Hidden valleys, small waterfalls, forest outlooks, that sort of thing.
And yet, what makes something special enough to not just be there, but be something?
China makes that question particularly noteworthy.
On the one hand, maybe it is when we as people from somewhere far enough away go there that we notice these things.
Some small waterfall along a creek in a valley is nothing special when it is where we go often, or when nobody has marked it as a special place.
China seems to have a different approach to these things, though.
It certainly feels like there are many more places in China that are declared as special and get turned into (often enough, government sanctioned) scenic spots that are put on the tourist map. At least, the map for Chinese in-country tourists…
The Duancenggu Valley, Hunan
One such case in point came up during these travels in Hunan, as we suddenly made an unexpected stop.
(The map shows the way back down, recorded with a Casio ProTrek Smart WSD-F20.)
The usual vlog video? Right here:
In rather typical China fashion, I had no idea we were going any place like this; we had just gone out because my wife wanted to have seen her maternal grandmother, too.
I had assumed we would meet her at the old house where she seemed to live when we visited a few summers back, but instead that was in the bigger town nearby at another place (and mainly, at a restaurant there).
Before all that, though, we drove around a bit, and suddenly stopped at a gate that looked to be for some kind of touristy place.
Inside, there was a creek coming down and a footbridge over it just being repaired. Clearly, there had been quite a bit of flooding there, too.
It was actually strange how little of that we had been affected by.
We once again visited China during a time when flood warnings were in effect, but all we saw was that some rivers ran high and the water in the (rice) fields stood rather higher than it often had, but nothing more.
That’s not the story here, though, as much of a role as water played.
With a little searching, we found the alternative path that didn’t try to go up right in the creek bed, and we started climbing.
There was some mitsuba growing wild there, an herb that looks a bit like parsley, that is used in Japanese cooking and that I grow a bit of (hence, why I can recognize it, but only know it by its Japanese name).
Chestnuts, as well.
Plants didn’t turn out to be what it was all about, either.
Geology of Note
As we climbed higher and higher along the creek, thanks to some inscribed stones, it slowly became clear what this place was all about: It is a sort of geological education trail, along with its function as a scenic spot, explaining some of the rocks in the area and how that whole cleft in the mountainous area came about…
Slowly but steadily, the path climbs higher alongside the creek.
Hard-leaf vegetation trades places with bamboo forest.
The water flows over rocks it has polished smooth, through cracks between broken boulders, tumbling down in waterfalls.
It is pretty, if not overly exciting.
Shuangshimen / Double Stone Gate Waterfall
Finally, up quite a bit, at the end of the valley (at least as far as the path is concerned), there is a little rest place in Chinese style, overlooking the main sight, the Shuangshimen waterfall.
That place, the “Double Stone Gate” is pretty, even if you’re not a Chinese into rock and water… shanshui, really rather mountains and water, the very Chinese word for landscape.
The water falls down the rock face, right behind and into boulders that really look like they make a gateway into a different world. Into the waterfall, anyways.
I wished I had been able to go right in.
And now, I wonder where else (like at the Sonnstein trail) we have similar places that would be worth a closer look, if only they weren’t considered too normal ;)